Abortion adds to Biden's all-but-impossible to-do list

President Joe Biden walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden’s list of impossible tasks keeps getting longer.

Despite lofty promises he's made, from the campaign trail through his first year in office, he has limited power to safeguard voting rights or expand the fight against climate change on his own.

And now it’s become clear that Biden has no good options for preserving abortion access as the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.

It's a disorienting and discouraging state of affairs for Democrats, who control both Congress and the White House for the first time in more than a decade.

But the reality is the party holds only the narrowest of majorities in the Senate, and there simply aren’t enough votes to guarantee abortion rights, especially with the filibuster in place.

Biden's pledge to codify Roe v. Wade into law seems destined for the same rocky shoals where other parts of his agenda, like tax credits for clean energy or legislation that would preempt state voting restrictions, have already run aground.

Perhaps the most succinct explanation came from Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich, last week.

“We’re stuck,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has scheduled a vote on abortion for next Wednesday, but it's almost certain to fail. Republicans are united in opposition, and a handful of Democrats may not support it either.

The impasse is forcing the White House to reopen its backup playbook — scrounging for ways to make a difference through executive action or regulatory steps while criticizing Republicans for the lack of broader action.

“The White House is under enormous pressure to be more forceful and vocal," said Lawrence Gostin, who runs the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health at Georgetown Law.

But Gostin, who is advising administration officials on next steps, said, “Biden needs to stick with winnable battles" by focusing on “low hanging fruit.”

One of those ideas involves making abortion medication more accessible by mail. The Food and Drug Administration has already eliminated the requirement to pick up the pills in person, and Gostin said the practice will need an aggressive defense as it faces conservative attacks.

The Justice Department has already gone to court over abortion access, suing Texas last year in an effort to stop a law that would ban most abortions.

Another concept, Gostin said, would be allowing Medicaid to pay for travel if a woman can't get an abortion in her own state. Such a plan might run afoul of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortions, so it would require careful wording.

For example, the policy could say Medicaid would pay for travel for authorized medical treatment if it’s not legal where the patient lives — making no mention of abortion.

None of these proposals are foolproof, and they will likely face Republican challenges in the courts or through legislation.

“It’s like whack-a-mole," Gostin said. "Anytime a woman tries to overcome state restrictions, they make them tighter.”

These kinds of administrative steps are similar to what Biden has done when other initiatives have stalled on Capitol Hill.

On voting, for example, he signed an executive order intended to make it easier to register, and the Justice Department is ramping up its efforts to protect ballot access.

In addition, Biden included some climate policies in the infrastructure legislation that passed last year, and regulators are strengthening rules on vehicle emissions.

"The president is incredibly proud of what he’s already accomplished in 15 months of his presidency," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

Asked about Biden's struggles on Capitol Hill, Psaki pointed to his long experience as a senator.

“He knows and understands it sometimes takes more time than he would like to get your agenda forward,” she said.

However, abortion stirs even greater passions than other issues across the political spectrum, and frustration about inaction is bubbling up.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who wants his state to become a refuge for people seeking abortions, said this week that Democrats are falling short.

“Where the hell is my party?" he said. Abortion opponents are winning, Newsom added. “We need to stand up. Where’s the counteroffensive?”

Cecilia Muñoz, a senior adviser at New America, a left-leaning think tank based in Washington, said in an interview earlier this year "there’s an assumption that the president has a magic wand that he doesn’t always have.”

She saw that firsthand as director of President Barack Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, when the White House increasingly relied on executive actions to make progress toward its goals despite Republican opposition.

“I think the advocacy community has gotten used to the idea that there are shortcuts," she said. "But there are no good shortcuts.”

Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said the expected end of Roe v. Wade will require activists to use different tactics.

“The American people are used to relying on the courts to protect their fundamental freedoms," she said. "And now we really have to get folks used to shifting their attention to legislators, members of Congress, legislative bodies. And that’s going to be a little bit of a culture shock and a little bit of a shift in the way we think.”

Democrats seem likely to lose control of Congress in the November elections, especially with Biden's sagging approval ratings. However, some hope that the Supreme Court decision will fire up their voters.

“What you’re looking for in politics is an opportunity,” said Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster. “There’s an opportunity that wasn’t there before this came out.”

Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian, compared Biden's situation to President Harry Truman, who was floundering as he ran for reelection in 1948. He turned his campaign into an indictment of a “do-nothing Congress,” which was controlled by Republicans at the time, and he managed to pull off a narrow victory.

The goal, Beschloss said, is to “take a bad hand and play it perfectly.”

Biden is trying a similar tack ahead of the midterms, escalating his criticism of other Republican proposals.

He repeatedly points to a blueprint from the National Republican Senatorial Committee that would increase taxes on people at the lower end of the income scale and force federal programs like Social Security to be reauthorized every five years.

"I’ve offered a different plan — a plan rooted in American values of fairness and decency," Biden said Wednesday.

And he warns that Republicans won't stop at abortion and could target other rights that were earned through the Supreme Court, such as access to birth control or same sex marriage.

“This MAGA crowd" — a reference to Donald Trump's “Make America Great Again” slogan — "is really the most extreme political organization that’s existed in recent American history,” Biden said.

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“Where the hell is my party?" he said. Abortion opponents are winning, Newsom added. “We need to stand up. Where’s the counteroffensive?”

The neo-liberal policies of decades of Democrats from Clinton onward led to the rise of populism and Trump.

Thus letting him stack the courts.

It is a failure of the Democratic Party, of which Biden was an integral part.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Lists of impossible tasks.

The list comes in the inherent job description for the executive. No matter the country.

There are many cyclicals to governance. But how you govern is all about the confidence that you build in those governed.

Confidence. Trust. Building some measure of success, against the odds.

Job description.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Joe is silly joke.

pathetic person.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

"The president is incredibly proud of what he’s already accomplished in 15 months of his presidency," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

Name one.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

"...And now it’s become clear that Biden has no good options for 'preserving abortion access' as the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade." I agree. He doesn't.

But when has that stopped him from making a worse decision, right?

Seems an opinion writer would know more than just his opinion, especial about things as basic as the Supreme Court, abortion, and the US constitution. But maybe we expect too much of ESL students trying to break into media propaganda? Maybe it has not confirmed it's gender! Well?

The constitution says nothing about abortion. Not in 1766 and not in 1973.

Hence, intruding itself into the issue of "abortion," with Roe vs Wade, that was an error. Just because it was made before many of you were born, does not change that.

You should consider yourselves lucky to be born at all, with a ruling like that, Honto ni!

That decision, made 50 years ago was an gregarious error.

By removing that decision, they are getting the FEDERAL Government OUT of what should be a woman's decision made with her husband, family, and her "spiritual what-ever." Getting the government out of the women's uterus, so to grossly speak.

Bill Clinton is NOT happy!

Government at the state level will step in, and they will probably try to regulate, for better or worse, human reproduction. Let's be honest; it is "woman's reproduction," because men are made the same way. And more, let's not say the mated egg and sperm are not "human." They will not develop into a whale, a cat or a turnip though some can fool ya! The wee human spends 9 months in "protective custody," with the woman who accepted the male sperm. Or with the 5% who were raped, had an "Oni-san! Oni-san" experience, worked a hostess club and went for the ichi-man yen special one hour service, whatever...

It isn't rocket science. It's simple biology. The kind that, as we have recently seen in Supreme Court confirmation of black Brown Katanji Jackson who doesn't know what Jack's son is, Supreme court justices are not qualified to determine biology.

It is best for all, especially that baby, if the judges bow-out and let the newly impregnated adults decide.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

"The president is incredibly proud of what he’s already accomplished in 15 months of his presidency," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

She can't and she knows that every distraction they can throw in people's faces will give them some breathing space to help them dodge and distract from his lack of accomplishments.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Some years back, I was part of a team that worked for awhile with a large-ish company that got itself in a large mess that cascaded quickly out of control (for a number of reasons). It took years and lots of money to stop the financial bleeding and to begin restoring the international reputation of the company. The CEO survived, even though the overall odds were against her.

I had a chance to talk to her about a year or so after things settled down. And I asked her what the biggest lesson that she took away from the experience. I remember her saying, without hesitation, that she trusted when she shouldn’t have.

I know that she could have spend a lesser part of an hour listing all the names of executives and management types, along with consultants and vendors of all shapes and sizes, that could/should have been blamed. She could have justifiably blamed prevailing international financial situations. And, theoretically, at least, could have partially blamed a former executive-turned-competitor.

And, therefore, it wouldn’t have been her fault.

Instead, she accepted responsibility. She had delegated when she shouldn’t have, and trusted staff experience in areas of expertise - at a particularly short and crucial time - that were misplaced. She admitted that it was her misjudgment, and that blame belonged with her.

True leadership is knowing that responsibility is in your control, rather than reverting to blaming what's seemingly out of your control. Accept responsibility. Even if things go horribly wrong.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Either the abortion ban and mission creep in other areas will galvanise American women to vote with their ballot papers (or their feet, moving to Democrat states), or American women are going to lose some of their most basic rights on the watch of a Democrat president.

One option is to remove abortion from the equation and offer federal funds for any American to move from one state to another. If they don't reside in their new state for three years, they have to pay back the money, albeit slowly, month by month, as their income allows. It would offer extra funding for students doing a three year degree or workers shifting to new jobs, whilst allowing impoverished Americans to visit relatives and pay back the cash over time. And incidentally it would allow women a chance to get an abortion.

Or, the airlines could offer free flights from coathanger states to young women wanting an abortion, whenever they had seats free on any relevant flight.

It does seem that power on domestic US policy now lies with the Republican Supreme Court, and will for at least a generation. The president has more control over foreign policy, but it doesn't seem very democratic. No matter who Americans cast their votes for, the Republic Supreme Court will now decide how they live their lives.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

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